Tuesday, October 11, 2011

All Quiet on the Southeastern Front... and Etymology

It's been a while. It's been at least a month.

This grad school thing is totally interfering with my literary life.

No, really. I can hardly indulge my creative writing proclivities, these days, be they blog-geared or otherwise.

Heck, even my interior design magazines are on the back-burner, mostly flipped through hastily while I wait for the shower water to heat up, or while I scarf down some Whole Foods rotisserie chicken - because like heck I have time to cook!

So between school work and migraines - because, yes, those are back in full swing - it's been difficult to get to the ole blog for some writing.

Part of what's made my recent life so hectic is the nature of the projects we have in design studio. They've been 2 week charettes - I'll explain what a charette is, in a bit - that have required all the graphical and model-building dexterity of the more usual 6-8 week project, and they've been killers. A pavilion for a site near downtown Houston, a hikers' refuge in Death Valley, and then a film center, built for the director/video artist of my choice (I chose Tom Twyker and Run Lola Run for the film center. The exterior involved lots of red splashes).

A charette, for those not in the know, is what a short, flurried burst of design activity is called. The term comes from the French word for "cart."

"Huh," you say. "That makes no sense at all."

Oh, Dear Reader, but it does, if you know your architectural history.

The term originated with the Ecole des Beaux Arts in France. In those days, the school had projects due all at once: and when it was due, it was due. Every bit of it. The instructors sent a cart through the corridors of the school, and students put their projects on the cart. Occasionally, a student wouldn't be finished, and so they would put their project on the cart, and put themselves on the cart, as well, so they could finish their assignment while it rolled down the hall.

Seriously. How gutsy was that?

So, if you are working feverishly in the last few hours before your project is due in architecture school, you are en charette, or as we now say, "on charette."

You learn something new every day, don't you?

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